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Understanding Solution Quality
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Logistics & Quality Management. Linköping University, Faculty of Science & Engineering.
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The integration of services and products into solutions can open up new business opportunities for firms. This thesis concerns how firms can provide solutions that are perceived as high quality. Solutions are often provided over several years, which implies a changed customer relationship compared to product provisions. Since the solution aims to support the customer’s activities, firms face new challenges when introducing solutions. One challenge is to integrate all components and activities of the solution, and simultaneously support the customer’s activities. In addition, the firm must ensure that the solution and all of its parts are of high quality.

Most of the existing research on quality is related to the management of a firm’s internal activities and the interaction during exchange. Within the research on quality, customer orientation means that a firm should manage the relevant product or service to meet customer requirements. When this is achieved, the product or service is of high quality. Since solutions are seen as services and products that are integrated as an outcome, as well as a customer relational process that aims to support the customer’s activities, firms have little to learn from previous research about the quality of solutions.

The aim of this thesis is to increase knowledge about how to manage solution quality. The thesis combines insights from research on quality with research on solutions and servitization. Three research questions are answered. The first question concerns the content of solution quality; the second deals with how firms can, with support from interventions, meet the new challenges that arise from solution provision; and the third question concerns how customers can be involved to achieve solution quality. The research questions are answered through five papers based on literature studies and empirical data. The papers contribute to an increased knowledge of solution quality and how firms can work to achieve it.

The results of the thesis suggest that solution quality is built on seven quality dimensions: reliability, communicability, internal consistency, empathy, approachability, tangibility, and adaptability. In addition, knowledge of processes and customer relationships are two prerequisites for the concept. These dimensions and prerequisites are supported by interventions that can provide a change. However, it has become evident that whatever intervention is used must be related to the dimensions that are supposed to be improved. Furthermore, customer involvement is argued to be an intervention to support the prerequisites for solution quality, especially during the solution  development. The results of this thesis extend the research on quality by increasing the knowledge of the solution quality concept and by changing the view of customers and their involvement during solution development.

Abstract [sv]

Den här avhandlingen berör hur företag kan möjliggöra så att produkter och  tjänster, integrerade i så kallade helhetslösningar, kan levereras med hög kvalitet. Helhetslösningar levereras ofta över en längre tid vilket medför en förändrad kundrelation till skillnad mot när endast en produkt levereras. Helhetslösningar syftar till att stödja kunden i dess aktiviteter. Det medför att företagen möter nya utmaningar. En utmaning är att få den komplexa helhetslösningen, bestående av olika komponenter och aktiviteter, att passa ihop och samtidigt bidra till att stötta kundens aktiviteter. Dessutom behöver företagen säkerställa att helhetslösningen och alla dess delar har hög kvalitet.

Tidigare forskning inom kvalitetsutveckling berör företags interna processer och aktiviteter. När man inom kvalitetsutveckling talar om kundorientering innebär det att företaget med interna medel ska arbeta för att möjliggöra så produkten eller tjänsten möter kundens specifikationer. När detta är uppnått har produkten eller tjänsten hög kvalitet. Företagen har här inga riktlinjer att följa när de ska leverera helhetslösningar som ska anpassas efter kundens aktiviteter och när en så tydlig kundrelation ska utvecklas. Det finns med andra ord ingen vägledning för vad som är kvalitet eller hur man möjliggör hög kvalitet på helhetslösningar.

Den här avhandlingen visar vad som ingår i begreppet kvalitet när det gäller helhetslösningar (lösningskvalitet) samt hur företag kan möjliggöra det. Tre olika frågor har huvudsakligen behandlats. Den första frågan besvarar vad lösningskvalitet innehåller. Den andra berör hur företag med hjälp av åtgärder kan bidra till en förändring inom företaget för att möta de nya utmaningar som uppstår med att leverera helhetslösningar. Den tredje frågan berör på vilket sätt kunden kan involveras för att uppnå lösningskvalitet. För att besvara frågorna har ett antal studier baserade på empiriskt material genomförts, och fem artiklar har författats under forskningsprocessen. Artiklarna bidrar till att öka förståelsen för lösningskvalitet och hur företag kan arbeta för att uppnå det.

Avhandlingens resultat visar att lösningskvalitet består av sju olika dimensioner: tillförlitlighet, kommunicerbarhet, intern överensstämmelse, empati, nåbarhet, påtaglighet, och anpassningsbarhet. Dessutom är kunskap om processer och kundrelationer två förutsättningar för att uppnå lösningskvalitet. Dimensionerna betraktas som riktmärken för lösningskvalitet som företag kan arbeta mot. Dimensionerna och förutsättningarna stöttas i sin tur av åtgärder som används för att bidra till den interna förändringen inom företaget. Resultaten visar dock att använda åtgärder inte alltid leder till en förändring. Endast noga utvalda åtgärder som relaterar till en specifik dimension möjliggör en förändring. Exempel på en möjlig åtgärd är kundinvolvering. Speciellt vid utveckling av helhetslösningar, betraktas kundinvolvering som en möjlig åtgärd för att stötta förutsättningarna till lösningskvalitet. Resultaten i den här avhandlingen bidrar huvudsakligen till en ökad kunskap om vad kvalitet är när det gäller helhetslösningar. Ytterligare ett bidrag är att föreslå kundens förändrade roll under utveckling och vid leverans av helhetslösningar för att uppnå lösningskvalitet.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2016. , 89 p.
Series
Linköping Studies in Science and Technology. Dissertations, ISSN 0345-7524 ; 1769
Keyword [en]
Solution quality, solutions, quality dimensions, servitization, customer involvement
National Category
Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics Transport Systems and Logistics Reliability and Maintenance Business Administration
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-128274DOI: 10.3384/diss.diva-128274ISBN: 978-91-7685-752-6 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-128274DiVA: diva2:930521
Public defence
2016-06-10, ACAS, A-huset, Campus Valla, Linköping, 10:15 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2016-05-24 Created: 2016-05-24 Last updated: 2016-05-24Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Changing quality initiative - does the quality profile really change?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Changing quality initiative - does the quality profile really change?
2013 (English)In: Total Quality Management and Business Excellence, ISSN 1478-3363, E-ISSN 1478-3371, Vol. 24, no 1, 79-90 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

A firm working with quality management over time may change from total quality management to Six Sigma to lean production, but does this actually change the firm's quality profile? This paper seeks to identify specific quality profiles in service firms and how these profiles change over time. The empirical investigation is based on self-assessment studies conducted in 138 Swedish service firms. The results show that service firms often build up a specific quality profile, which they retain over time. The paper develops theoretical and managerial implications based on the research.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2013
Keyword
quality management; quality profile; quality principles; change management
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-89629 (URN)10.1080/14783363.2012.707868 (DOI)000327929600006 ()
Available from: 2013-02-28 Created: 2013-02-28 Last updated: 2017-12-06
2. Using interventions to change the quality profile of an organisation
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Using interventions to change the quality profile of an organisation
2013 (English)In: International Journal of Quality and Service Sciences, ISSN 1756-669X, E-ISSN 1756-6703, Vol. 5, no 1, 32-45 p.Article in journal (Other academic) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose − The purpose of the present study is to investigate how a quality profile can evolve over time and, in particular, how different kinds of interventions can further develop or change an existing quality profile.

Methodology/approach − Data was collected over a five-year period, including a literature review, interviews, a document study and observations to capture the quality profile and associated interventions. The study was carried out in a service organisation in the public sector.

Findings − This study shows that the quality profile can change over time due to the use of specific interventions. If a company wants to emphasise a specific quality principle, it must target the quality principle with one or moreinterventions. However, even if a quality principle is targeted, there is no guarantee that the quality principle will show improvement in the quality profile. Also, One main finding is that the quality profile becomes more even over time due to the internal consistency of the quality principles.

Research limitations/implications − This paper sheds light on the need to study the adoption of individual quality principles and the evolution of the quality profile of an organisation.

Practical implications − The results can provide insights for organisations aiming to embark on a quality programme, specifically how to design and develop a quality profile.

Originality/value − This research implies that the quality profile is a recurring, general phenomenon in all quality management improvement programmes. In other words, successful implementation of quality management requires a cohesive quality profile.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2013
Keyword
Quality management, Quality principles, Quality profile, Service organisations
National Category
Business Administration Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-88729 (URN)10.1108/17566691311316239 (DOI)
Available from: 2013-02-15 Created: 2013-02-15 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved

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